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Beware of E15- Coming To A Pump Near You
Ethanol/gasoline blends have been available since the 1970s.
Back then, it was an oil company attempt at outside the box marketing, like putting cherry juice in Coca Cola or adding chocolate to milk. Some people liked the idea and didn’t mind paying a few cents extra for the “gasohol” as it was then called. The government had nothing to do with it.
Then government got involved. Legislators from states with lots of cornfields and few constituents found an issue which would redistribute tax dollars to the prairies instead of the cities. Environmentalists found an issue which would appease their hatred of petroleum. Regulators found a new product to control. Lobbyists found an industry willing to pay them to tout its cause.
The result became a solid voting block in Washington, bought and paid for by ethanol producers. A block which has legislated tax breaks, incentives, subsidies and grants to fuel-ethanol distilleries. Ethanol plant construction produced the biggest building boom on the Great Plains since the railroad era in the late 1800s.
To make sure of a market for the ethanol being produced, laws were passed mandating specific and ever-increasing levels of ethanol be used for fuel. The US production of fuel ethanol in 2006 was 4.3 billion gallons. The law says it’s supposed to be 15 billion in 2012 and 36 billion by year 2022. When writing this law (called the Renewable Fuel Standards) the assumption was made America’s thirst for gasoline would continue to rise on an annual basis. More gallons of gasoline would require more gallons of ethanol so the standards should have been easily met.
The price of a barrel of oil was around $30 in 2006. It skyrocketed to $147 in 2008 and has never and will likely never go back to those prices of a decade ago.
Gasoline prices doubled and more. When gas prices went up, instead of using more gasoline each subsequent year as predicted, American drivers used less. They drove less and many elected to drive more fuel efficient vehicles.
However, the mandate to produce ever increasing amounts of ethanol is still in place. How will this work? If you are the EPA, there’s always a way to pound a square peg into a round hole.
So in typical big government fashion, instead of walking away from the boondoggle they created and letting the market and demand set price and production levels, the bureaucrats doubled down. If there aren’t enough vehicles burning enough 10 percent ethanol fuel (E10) to use the government mandated production, the government solution was simple - boost the base ethanol level in gasoline to 15 percent.
No matter the new E15 blend would ruin cars built in 2001 or earlier. No matter the computers and sensors in pre-2007 autos are not compatible with E15. No matter using E15 in current year mowers, ATVs, leaf-blowers and other small engines voids all warrantees.
What about boat motors? Significant problems sprang up in many marine engines E10 became commonplace. By and large, that problem has been outgrown, but what will happen to boat fueled up with a few tanks of E15?
Studies were conducted on new inboard, outboard and sterndrive engines, matching performance, reliability and emissions from identical engines burning E10 and E15. The E15 flunked all the tests. In fact, testing was stopped on 2 of the 3 outboards testing the E15 to avoid ruining the motors. Recently, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced “The Renewable Fuel Standard Reform Act of 2015.” This bill, which is enjoying bipartisan support, will repeal mandates for blends of ethanol fuels above 10%.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting, owning or using fuel containing high levels of ethanol. Far better, however, is allowing that to be a personal choice, not one mandated by the EPA. I’ve contacted my congressmen encouraging their support.
E15 is not yet widespread in Indiana but it is now widely distributed in 16 states including three of our neighbors, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. No doubt, it will eventually be sold here in Indiana so watch out when you pull “Ol Wavewhacker” up to the fuel pumps this season.
Mike can be reached through his website www.brother-nature.com